What is Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire?
It is difficult to believe that Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire is the product of just a three-person development team. Such is its outstanding quality. However, the team at Whale Hammer Games have put together something quite magical. It is a heavily story-driven tactical turn-based combat game that places you in the world of Tahira the princess of Avestan. You must guide her and her merry band of followers throughout one of the most arduous nights of her kingdom’s history.
Inspired by real-world travels throughout the Middle East, Nepal and India the game presents players with a well-crafted and meaningful world that will have you fully immersed within it. My initial expectations for the game weren’t particularly high because this is the team’s debut title. However, it becomes immediately clear that the game was made from the heart and is definitely a passion project.
A Well-Timed and Deep Story
The highlight of the game is the story. Its complexity and depth unveil itself as it progresses.
The writing has one clear tell-tale sign of superb writing. This is the fact that it repeatedly made me wonder and deeply question which side Tahira is truly on. Firstly, she personally appears to be of a pure heart. However, there is the fact that the land that her father ruled has experienced so much hardship. There are countless tribes and other nomadic people who fear and hate the current rule. Consequently, a crucial plot line – should you so choose to read into it – is whether the current rule is the right rule for the people of the land or whether those who have come to transform the land are doing the right thing.
Therefore, I believe that the game is making a political statement on the United Nations occupation in the Middle East. Because of this, it makes the game a timely release regardless of which side of the debate you find yourself in. Perhaps your worldview will change or become more educated through the playing of this game.
However, there is a potential downside to the game within its wonder. Those who prefer to have equal parts action and the story may be disappointed. There is much more story within the game than there is combat. Of course, players do have the choice to bypass the story segments by clicking through them. However, I am left to wonder what the point of playing the game would be without experiencing the story at least once.
A further downside is that the story is linear. This would impact those who would like to experience multiple playthroughs in the hopes of unlocking new content. However, it is a relatively minor quibble.
Beautiful Hand Drawn Artwork
I have found myself becoming much more appreciative of outstanding artwork lately. Therefore, laying my eyes upon the artwork featured within the game sent me to artwork heaven. The screenshots may look relatively basic but it is very pleasing to the eyes.
Full credit for the artwork goes to Peter ‘Simmo’ Simpson.
The turn-based combat is a big reason why people would be invested in the game. Thankfully, it delivers a very solid all-around effort. There is a nice amount of content. There are a number of mechanics and classes each with their own strengths and weaknesses that are introduced throughout the game.
Without a doubt, my personal favorite is The Claw. They are ninja styled combatants who have a power titled ‘vicious strikes’ that enables them to use the game’s ambush mechanic to rip through multiple enemies before they have an opportunity to realize what is happening to them. It’s very cool.
One bonus to the combat is that there are multiple ways to win each encounter. This enables players to utilize a strategy that works for them while maintaining flexibility and variety where combat will never feel too repetitive.
However, there are a couple of weaknesses in the combat that deserve criticism. The first is that I would have enjoyed seeing a greater emphasis on formations. The game introduces formations early in the game but then struggles to utilize their strategic realization throughout the game. You’ll likely only ever use them when you are in a position to utilize certain skills. This, sadly, isn’t often enough for my liking. Secondly, I feel that the game’s combat relies too much on hero powers.
Ultimately, I believe that the combat offers enough room for strategy but it could have been improved.
Lack of Voice Acting
Although I am a fan of the presentation I would have appreciated voice acting throughout the scenes. The music is solid throughout, however, it becomes rather stale when there is no other sound throughout much of the narration.
There is so much dialogue that I almost considered adding the ‘Visual Novel’ tag to the game on the Steam store page.
Is it Steamified?
Yes. The game has been Steamified by the addition of 8 trading cards and 18 Steam achievements. These achievements have been designed to ensure that the hunters play multiple playthroughs of the game. Some of them are more difficult than completing a single playthrough. For example, ‘Play it Safe’ requires players to complete a playthrough and ensure that Tahira, the game’s main character, never takes HP damage. Do note that this is not ‘defense’ damage and consequently does not mean that she cannot take any damage.
Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire has captured a gigantic piece of my heart. There are not too many games that are released these days where I feel that I owe it to myself to complete it multiple times. I am now interested to read about the places and the people that have inspired the game. This is something that I haven’t really experienced from a piece of media since I read The Kite Runner for the first time. Therefore, I recommend the game not only for the great story and solid gameplay but for the profound cultural effect that I am enjoying it for.
Developer: Whale Hammer Games
Publisher: Whale Hammer Games
Release date: 31 August 2016